Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Knowing Full Well

This may be the longest stretch of not writing on the blog since it started.  Mea culpa. That doesn't mean I haven't been writing.  Eleven lessons and counting on a class that starts today (one more day to sign up) on Real Villains for a writer's group.

The class will be a challenge.  Like in a lot of fringe areas of life, the 'common wisdom' is ridiculously wrong; what most people 'know' are politically-driven platitudes; and these incredibly un- or ill-informed beliefs are passionately defended.  There's some information that would rock their world that I can't directly share because of confidentiality issues and NDAs... but they will get a close look.  Hope they're ready.

The basic distinction between infatuation and love is that with infatuation, you have to explain that every pimple is really a beauty mark and in love, you can see the blemishes without your feelings changing.  Those infatuated must actively stay blind, because they fear what they will feel if they see the truth.

You see this in martial arts, of course.  I've seen an instructor with a scripted knife defense that would have cut his own throat with a real blade...and their students blindly repeating the technique.  Seen an instructor explain that falling over by flinching was inevitable and physics, though he could only make it work on his own students.  Seen people who were toyed with convincing themselves they won. Watched countless martial artists deny their personal experience and accept a ridiculous truth... "Attacks always come from two long steps away" "No one can hit hard enough to hurt you at close range" "Anyone who uses a knife will become tool dependent and forget that they can use their other hand and feet so it's okay to tie up all your weapons on one of his"...and so on.

My circle of friends are probably not the people you'd invite over for tea and crumpets. Some are what R calls, "Our kind of broken." I like them, that's why they're my friends.  But I like them knowing full well who and what they are. Not all are bad asses, and not all the ones who think they are really are.  Some have knowledge that far outpaces their understanding or skill.  All are trustworthy, if you know their parameters.

And some of them don't like each other.  "How can you put up with...?"

It's easy.  None of my friends are perfect, and so I can love them anyway, flaws and all.

But I hit a wall on this, sometimes, in training.  What do you do with good skills that come from horseshit?  Most of the time it's not a problem-- generally, if you find an art with 2000 years of history that was invented from pure imagination in the last half century, the art tends to not be all that useful anyway.  It's easy to walk away.

But what about effective arts taught by frauds?  Or what if it is the second or third generation away from the fraud who conned them and the present generation of instructors don't even know it's a fraud?

And (ran into this recently and am still puzzling over it) a group breaks away from their founder because of integrity issues but continues to teach not just the effective technique but also the bullshit philosophy of the founder?

Example-- most of the "Zen" I have seen written about in the US isn't just about the heretical offshoot of the heretical offshoot of Buddhism, but the misinformed, 1970's hippy idealized imaginings of what zen was supposed to be.  If someone wrapped effective stuff in this imaginary trappings...

The INTJ part of me doesn't care.  As long as the parts I need work, the fairy tales people tell themselves don't matter to me.  But part of me cares, for two reasons.  One is that too many people swallow the fantasy with the substance.  Two- if someone can study X for a lifetime and somehow avoid noticing that everything around it is based on historical lies, how can I trust them on the base issues either?

Knowing full well who and what they are, I can usually take the useful and leave the useless.  But it bothers me.


The European Historical Combat Guild said...

Was just commenting on something similar, how can you trust anything someone says about the skills they practice, when the thing they say they are doing looks nothing like the thing they are modelling.
Yes some of it is having the eyes to see as they say, and much of that is exposure, experience and thinking laterally and critically... But I have have seen too much where as you say people don't want to see, they want the Walt Disney version of the fairytale not the original. Ignorance is bliss, and many people seek out bliss, even when they know it's really just ignorance, drink the kool aid and take the blue pill.

pax said...

The basic distinction between infatuation and love is that with infatuation, you have to explain that every pimple is really a beauty mark and in love, you can see the blemishes without your feelings changing.

Related: Have you noticed that the easiest way to insult someone is simply to tell them a bare and obvious truth?

Adam said...

Re: Zen. There's an interesting new book called The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side about a Zen teacher who has made a career of exploiting, for his own extensive sociopathic profit, the delusional expectations of his students about Zen. One of the former students of this guy said that in the end, what he learned after leaving the teacher was that "although the teacher may be a liar, zazen is not a liar." I like that.

Nick said...

I am lucky/unlucky enough to be involved in both Zen and tai chi: it's hard to think of two practices that have been more misunderstood...I find it much easier to spot the bullshit in tai chi (of course my own training is spot on!), less so in zen, simply because it has been mythed about in so many different ways, through different cultures and cultural filters. Korean, vietnamese,chinese or japanese? Rinzai or soto? Institutional or iconoclast? These are just some of the pivot points... The search for authenticity is endless....with tai chi, if they cant move effectively but think they can, i can write it off as nonsense.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

if it is being sold to me as "I am the way you will find the answers" then my alarms start going off. Some sell it better with "the answer is in you..." but then we get the "and I am the one that can get you there"

Unknown said...

Sometimes I wonder, why do we bother with martial arts anyway? For sport and fun, OK, but for combat? Why would you want to learn an art that worked for someone else sometime in the past, possibly under different circumstances, legally, ethically etc... Not to mention all the useless shit you have to buy (gi, belt, hakama you never use utside the dojo) While combat is complex, it's not complicated. There are just systems trying to distrupt or destroy other systems. Combat is governed by anatomy and physics. Those do not change. Why is combat an art, not science? Maybe because carrying the legacy of the samurai/ninja/viking/whatever has much appeal to the monkey?

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

It was in the Art and a Science in the past, or practice and theory.
Many of the books written on the subject in the Renaissance talk about it that way.
The science is the Principles and Concepts and the Art is using those to create something, the practice of it.

Anonymous said...

"if you find an art with 2000 years of history that was invented from pure imagination in the last half century"


Which arts are these?

Unknown said...

anon: Plenty. Many new jujitsu and ninjitsu styles, but also others, the founders of which sort of reverse-engeneered the styles. Here in Hungary, it's especially rare to find authentic jitsu lineages.

TEHCG: That's not what I meant. I meant that why would we codify and dogmatize something to the extent of excluding techniques and practices because it won't fit into "art". My favourite example is teakwondo: a stlye omitting hand strikes and grappling, with instructors claiming it a complete and combat-effective system.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

Ah ok. yes indeed why would someone do that? But they do it all the time! People want to drink the kool aid and take the blue pill all the time.

There have been a number of "lost" ancient arts in Europe. one is supposed to have been handed down in a family and a small area in Scandinavia from the time of the Vikings. The man who decided to make his family style public happened to have lived before doing so in Japan for a number of years, and had a high level in Aikido. Many people are therefore rather surprised at how much this ancient Scandinavian art looks just like Aikido.

Kai Jones said...

You're an empiricist in a world of ideologists. I ship it.